#runstory // JUSTIN

#runstory // JUSTIN

The understanding I got from my doctors was that it was a freak occurrence. There was no explanation — I didn’t have any risk factors other than being diabetic — I don’t know if there’s a relationship between the two things.

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes back in 2015.

I was 280 lbs then. I’d been out of shape for a bit, but I got inspired by a friend whose husband had recently died of melanoma. His goal had been to run ten 5Ks the year after his diagnosis while he was terminally ill, and he did it. It made me realize that dealing with a diabetes diagnosis wasn’t that hard, so I started pushing myself. I started treadmill running. When the weather warmed up, I started parking my car further away and jogging — I wasn’t even tracking. I’d go home and jump on Google Maps, see how much distance I did.

Then the Bluenose came up, and I was like, OK — I should try to do a 5K. I don’t even think I’d run a 5K at that point, but I thought signing up would be a way to push myself. I ran it.

Later that year, my parents spotted an article in the paper about the North End Runners, North Brewing and Little Beast. They were like “oh have you heard of this group of runners? Sounds like something you might like…” So I went to the Little Beast launch, and after that I went nonstop for the better part of a year. I didn’t even think running was a winter sport before that, like “uh, you guys run in winter?” But I was hooked. Running with the crew just became my motivation. I ended up capping that first year off with a half marathon at Shubie.

But I was pretty tired after I ran my first full marathon. This was last year. I was exhausted after. I was exhausted all summer. I thought it was burnout, but I was sick after any running, even after doing a 6K crew run. I felt like I might throw up.

It turns out the tumour had shown up in May, a week before the marathon, but I didn’t know it.

I’d gone to the hospital with lower abdominal pain. They CT-scanned me, they were all prepped to deal with appendicitis, but that wasn’t it. I said, “can I run next week?” They told me I was good to run — but they didn’t tell me about the small 1 centimeter bump on my kidney.

My doctor ordered an ultrasound when I followed up. I kind of had a feeling something was up, because the girl doing the ultrasound, she kept going over it. I was reading her facial expressions and I was like “yeah something’s wrong.”

I was about to head to Mexico for a wedding when they gave me a call and said they needed to see me, so I headed in the night before flying out, and my Doctor said, “I think you have cancer… but don’t worry, just go get drunk.” Of course I still went to Mexico. The first Urologist I was referred to disagreed with my Doctor. He didn’t think it was cancer. He said not to worry, but decided to check anyway with another CT scan.

I got a call the week before Christmas, and the Urologist said, “yeah I think it is cancer.”

At that point they did a quick biopsy to confirm, and they called me up and said ”we’re going to remove it, we need to remove it soon” — it had grown another centimeter.

The worst of it was feeling like I had a ticking time bomb inside me. Especially after I’d lived my healthiest year ever.

They told me I shouldn’t be too symptomatic while I waited for surgery, but I was fatigued and I had pain on my side where they eventually operated. I was scared. I was tired and in pain anytime I did anything physically-exertive. I was feeling sick, I didn’t want to do anything. I thought it must be worst-case scenario. They had gotten it wrong before, so I kept having this ominous feeling that it could get worse, that it might be worse than they think.

When you focus on things that aren’t going well for you, you start to let a little bit of depression set in. I started having a lot more down days than up days. I missed everything that kept me running even during the coldest and hottest days; the social atmosphere, the positive vibes, never ever feeling like I can’t do something when I was running with the crew, how supportive everyone is, no one is a naysayer, that everyone cheers you on.

They ended up removing half my rib. My 11th rib is gone. When I woke up I was in pain obviously, but I felt… really good. After surgery so many people dropped by. I can’t describe how that feels. People I hadn’t seen for a few years, shooting  me messages, and some of the crew showing up the day after. I got up and started walking down the halls. No one even told me I could, but I got up and started walking. I was just ready to keep moving.

About 4 weeks after the surgery, this is a couple of weeks ago, my energy came back. And I realized, OK, the pain from the incision is gone, there’s no throbbing in my side anymore — yeah, I feel like they got it.

All last summer, all last year, I haven’t felt this kind of energy. I feel good.

So this week I’m going to run the Bluenose 5K.

It was my first race. It was also the start of a bunch of amazing things that happened in my life — meeting the crew, doing things I’d never done before — it led to me being healthier. If I wasn’t training for a full marathon last year, I wouldn’t have been as health-focused, I wouldn’t have gone to the hospital worried about abdominal pain. It might have gone unchecked. They told me people don’t catch things this early. If I was living an unhealthy lifestyle, I might’ve thought it was nothing.

I feel like I have a new chance. I can’t think of a better way to kick off the start of something and to push myself all over again.